Friday, March 18, 2011

The Dominican... continued

I had promised more from my trip... I'm so sorry it's taken me this long to get it up.  I've had a WHIRLWIND week, with so much good stuff happening!  I'm excited and overwhelmed all at the same time... like when you don't know which way is up but life is SO good!!!  Of course, we all have challenges and setbacks, but it's just nice when the stars align every once in a while.
Anyway, back to DR.  My experience there was nice - the beach was lovely and relaxing, as you have seen.  But, anytime I travel somewhere I like to see as much of the country and culture as I can. In all likelihood, I'll never be back there again, so why miss the opportunity, right? Well, on this trip we planned two day trips, one of which was to the capitol, Santo Domingo.  Founded by Christopher Columbus, the first city in the New World, you can imagine Dominicans are pretty proud of it.  And understandably.  Our tour consisted mostly of listening to a guide talk about Columbus monuments and buildings in five different languages, for the WHOLE day.  Wowza.  But, along the way, we were exposed to a little of the city. I was saddened and shocked by what I saw.  And I don't mean to be negative to the Dominicans, but I've been lucky and traveled  some, and this was the worst I'd seen.  Poverty, yes.  This I have seen, and it is sad.  Stray animals... this is often seen, and surprisingly the dogs/cats I saw looked pretty healthy, but the horses... oi, that was another story.  One of the horse's I saw go by pulling a carriage made me cry (I may address this later, I can't decide).  And the GARBAGE.  It was everywhere, covering every surface, with the exception of the very small Old City, which is where these photos are taken.  Santo Domingo is coastal and the beaches are not safe to swim, they are so polluted. What was so striking about this was that our 5-Star resort was pristine - a microcosm of paradise amongst all of this.  And most travelers probably never see it.  They may not realize how dire the situation is, and that if we want to enjoy the world's beautiful, tropical beaches, something's got to change.  Here's an example of what I mean: on the beach at our resort, each day it is raked, by hand. They have a staff of people that pick up garbage all day, and they fumigate the beach (ewww, this bothered me) with pesticides so bugs and wasps wouldn't bother you.  1 kilometer off the beach and the roads and are strewn with garbage, as far as the eye can see.  So, I've been thinking about the small things you can do on a vacation like this to be a little more eco friendly.  Read On.

The original military fortress of Columbus' day.
Tip One: The single most striking thing is the amount of PLASTIC you use on these trips.  Let's be honest: all-inclusive resorts involve a good deal of, shall we say, indulging.  And on the beach, that drink comes in a disposable, plastic cup. Bring a travel mug. The bartenders happily fill them, you get a bigger drink that stays cooler, and you can re-use it.  I calculated that the average person uses 8-20 cups per day!!!! This is made even more important by the fact that the Dominican doesn't recycle.

The first cathedral built outside of Europe. It took 20 years to build in the 16th century.
Tip Two: You can't drink the water from the tap in the Dominican. BUT, restaurants are required to have filtered water. So bring a large, 1L water bottle (I have one made of steel that can take a beating, and hence survive many, many vacations) and ask for it to be filled at the restaurants at each meal.  This will save the gazillions of plastic water bottles that you would otherwise have used. Again, which they don't recycle.

The nave of the Cathedral.
Tip Three: most resorts now have a policy that if you make your bed and hang your towels up, they will not change them for new ones.  I'm sure you can imagine how much laundry a resort like that will do in a day, oh the water and energy they will use!!  If you must have fresh ones, at least cut it back to once in the week.  The same goes for your beach/pool towel. Rather than exchange it for a new one each day, hang it on your balcony at the end of your beach day. It will be ready for use tomorrow.

Tip Four:  Wear a non-toxic, biodegradable sunscreen.  Not only is this for your benefit...whatever you put in your skin is in your blood in 30 seconds, don't get me started on parabens!! ;-)... it's also for the benefit of the fishies in the ocean!!!  I don't know if you've ever noticed, but some sunscreens will literally create a surface skim of oily, weird stuff on the water! Not nice.  I'm sure the accumulation of thousands of guests swimming in the ocean several times per day has an effect.

The courtyard of Christopher Columbus' palace.  
Tip Five: That's it. No more tips.  I can think of more, but I don't want to overwhelm you or sound "preachy". Mostly, I just want people to think about the bigger picture, and do what they can because they want to.  So, above all, enjoy and appreciate your vacation if you get to go.  Relax, snooze, detox, whatever.  That appreciation will foster the desire to preserve, so you can come back and swim in the ocean again.  So, what do you think?  If you have any travel tips to add please do so! Leave a comment and share!

A man selling his wares.

Jonathan is struggling a little (read: bored!!!) with the narrative, repeated in five different languages!!! 

Christopher Columbus' palace. Amazing really - it's very old, yet practically pristine.  Inside still has some original furniture!
Thank's for reading everyone!

Still to come today: exciting news about Pure Green Magazine, and an update on our next issue.

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